NEHA COVID-19 Environmental Health Workforce Needs Assessment II Report

2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY RESPONDENT OVERVIEW Environmental health (EH) professionals are essential contributors to the delivery of public health services by anticipating, assessing, and reducing risks associated with modern life. These efforts comprise infection control, disease prevention, and disaster preparation, response, and recovery, among other services. Recent publications associated with the Understanding the Needs, Challenges, Opportunities, Vision, and Emerging Roles in Environmental Health (UNCOVER EH) initiative established that EH professionals play a crucial role in protecting our national health, safety, and security. The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) fielded a nationwide EH workforce needs assessment in response to COVID-19 from July 15–August 31, 2020. The aim of the assessment was to collect primary data in support of efforts to assess EH workforce activities and identify needs in response to COVID-19. Information about the survey was sent to approximately 6,800 individuals via several e-mail marketing endeavors and had a reach of approximately 1,200 individuals via three social media platforms. In total, 767 individuals completed the survey. The preliminary findings are provided in this report. A comprehensive report will be published at a later date. The findings are unequivocal. EH practitioners, many of whom are employed at small local agencies, are actively supporting COVID-19 response and recovery. Their contributions are felt in safely reopening and restoring the economy, emergency operation centers, contact tracing, and communications efforts, in addition to their customary responsibilities. They have been tasked to take on new roles and responsibilities that sometimes place them at risk of harm from the disease. They report being emotionally exhausted and understaffed. The impending vaccination initiatives will likely increase their workload. We recommend EH staff be included early as active and meaningful participants in formulating plans to vaccinate the public. NEHA received 767 responses from EH professionals working across various sectors of the field including governmental public health agencies (local, state, federal, tribal, and territorial EH programs), academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations, etc. As indicated in Figure 1, 52% of survey respondents were from local EH programs. The next highest represented workforce category was state EH programs (20%). This category was followed by the private sector (10%), which includes professionals working at private companies within industries such as retail food and consulting. Figure 1. Respondent Representation by EH Workforce Category 52 20 10 7 4 3 3 1 1 <1 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Local EH Program State EH Program Private Sector Other Federal EH Program Academia Uniformed Services Tribal EH Program Nongovernmental Organization U.S. Territory EH Program Respondents (%)